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The Elusive General Factor of Personality: The Acquaintance Effect


Correspondence to: Timo Gnambs, Institute of Psychology, Osnabrück University, Seminarstr. 20, 49069 Osnabrück, Germany.



A general factor (gp) at the apex of personality has been suggested to account for the correlations between the Big Five. Although the gp has received ample support from monomethod studies, results from studies incorporating different methods have remained rather ambiguous; some have identified a gp across different informants, whereas others have not. It was hypothesized that these divergent findings are a result of varying lengths of acquaintance between raters. To this end, the current study presents a multitrait multi-informant meta-analysis (total N = 11 941) that found weak support for a gp as a substantive trait of personality. Evidence for a gp was susceptible to the length of acquaintance between informants. Although a gp could be identified for short-term acquaintances, it remained elusive at long-term acquaintance. Thus, the gp in other ratings more likely reflects normative ratings of an average individual rather than ratings of the specific target person. Copyright © 2013 European Association of Personality Psychology